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Joe Nocera

Facebook and Twitter Deserve Scrutiny, Not a Senate Smackdown

It is completely reasonable to reexamine the laws governing social media and the content on their platforms. Political theater got in the way this time.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg got a grilling from Senators. What’s needed is sober debate.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg got a grilling from Senators. What’s needed is sober debate.

Photographer: Michael Reynolds/EPA Pool

Corrected

Until Wednesday’s Senate Commerce Committee’s hearing on Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act — which shields social media companies from legal liability for the content posted on their platforms — one could be forgiven for believing that the idea of reforming or eliminating it was worthy of serious debate.

After all, Washington policy wonks had been saying for years that tech giants like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google had long since outgrown Section 230, which was intended to protect startups from frivolous — but potentially ruinous — lawsuits. More recently, conservatives had been clamoring to strip Big Tech from Section 230 protection because (in their view) Facebook and Twitter were favoring liberal speech while censoring conservative speech.